Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Vision of a Formerly Troubled Spot

This is the close view of the monkey puzzle tree.
My preconceived notion of Northern Ireland has been shot to hell. This is not a dreary, violent, angry place. It is quite the opposite.

The early fall light here is designed by the creator with photographers in mind, I suspect. There is a lot to shoot and finding the right light is often a matter of turning around. It's there in its yellowed sweetness, somewhere.

The vegetation is lush and Irish green with a wide variety of plants I simply can't identify. Louise Anson, who owns the farm where we are staying, has a deep and broad understanding of plant life and points easily to the exotic monkey puzzle. This is a tree that, 25 yards in the distance, looks like a spindly spruce, but upon closer inspection has more of a cactus feel. The farm is dotted with that kind of exotica.

Monkey puzzle tree.
We talked late into the night Tuesday about the plight of Northern Irish women since the end of The Troubles. Lou and her friend Sarah are involved in teaching abused and battered women some of the building arts. "There was no time for that before," she says. And there wasn't. The issues of peacetime were not at the top of the list for daily consideration and with bombings in neighborhoods and village centers, the plight of individuals was subjugated.

Building shelves and furniture tends to focus energy in a positive way, says Lou, and it provides, on some occasion, a marketable skill at best and self-esteem at minimum.

All over the country, the mood is bright, even though for the past few years the economy has come down from the extraordinary high of the late 1990s and early 2000s when real estate prices looked like those in California. A man I talked to in a cafe yesterday chatted, almost cheerfully, of losing half of his wealth in the crash. He couldn't have been much more than 35, but that trauma didn't seem to linger.

These appear to me to be happy, adjusted people, not the war-weary, dreary, depressed Irish I thought possible. From what I have seen so far, they are a delightful people who are far more interested in helping than in taking advantage of tourists who don't even know how to count the money, who don't know a liter from a lighter, who think it's normal to drive a car on the right, who think a banger is a guy who plays in a heavy metal band.

Last night, on the way home from Enniskillen up near the western coast, we got lost trying to find some food. One of the women working at the shop where we stopped (convenience stores here have the best eats!) and asked directions stopped what she was doing and spent a good 20 minutes writing out a complex, detailed--and, as it turned out, perfect--narrative to get us back where we needed to be. I was touched at her kindness and good cheer.

It's like that everywhere. Surrounded by physical beauty and lovely people. I could live here.

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